Coláiste Chríost Rí taps into rich history to field soccer teams again

Renowned for their GAA pedigree, Críost Rí has produced a host of soccer stars too, from Dave Barry to Chiedozie Ogbene
Coláiste Chríost Rí taps into rich history to field soccer teams again

Future Premier League player Damien Delaney captained Críost Rí. Picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

COLÁISTE Chríost Rí is one of the most storied GAA nurseries with their 15 Corn Uí Mhuirí titles and four Hogan Cups.

They've been a production line for future Cork footballers.

Now the school has taken up a new game after briefly trying it out in the 1970s; soccer, and coach Gearóid Calnan hopes it stays around for a long time.

The new era for Chríost Rí also acts as a celebration given the long list of alumni that includes Manchester United treble winner Denis Irwin, Crystal Palace legend Damien Delaney, current Republic of Ireland international Chiedozie Ogbene, and Cork City captain Cian Coleman.

Rotherham United's Chiedozie Ogbene battles Swansea City's Joel Latibeaudiere and Oli Cooper. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Rotherham United's Chiedozie Ogbene battles Swansea City's Joel Latibeaudiere and Oli Cooper. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Even Billy Morgan, one of the greatest ever Gaelic football coaches, had trials with Celtic under Jock Stein. Dave Barry went one better by winning almost every trophy there was to be won with Cork and St Finbarr’s, and he replicated that achievement with Cork City FC.

The idea of setting up a team has been floated around the corridors for generations, and this year two teachers decided it was time for soccer to take its place in the school’s curriculum.

“Students have always been mentioning it,” the coach told the story of how the team was formed.

“I’d have a big interest in it myself. I played a bit of it back home in West Cork, I’m from Clonakilty and I used to play with my local club.

“I’d chat away to the students about sport quite regularly, whenever they had games or had I games. They asked would I take on a team. We said we’ll see what we can do.

“This year myself and Ciara McGrath, one of the PE teachers inside, came together and said why don’t we join forces and get it going as best as we can?

“At the start, I’d have taken some GAA teams. A couple of new teachers over the last few years have taken over the running of that, which freed me up. 

"That gave me time with Ciara to take them on a Wednesday afternoon after a half-day to train the team.

“The other thing was getting jerseys organised and trying to get sponsors. Then you have to sort pitches. We’ve been working away in the background for a while now, trying to get teams entered into various competitions. 

"There’s a bit of work involved but when you know that the students are going to appreciate it, you feel willing to put in that work. Hopefully it will pay off and you’ll see the benefits from it in their school life and everyday life.

We’ve just taken things slowly and we’ve started off with two teams, our First Years and our TY age group which is around U16. 

"The first day out with our first years, we had well over 30. Straight away we saw a great appetite. It was similar with the U16s. The more word got out, the more guys were looking to join. Once they played their first game, even more lads came along.” 

Soccer immediately exploded in popularity in Críost Rí with scores of students going to training on a Wednesday afternoon. The game has quickly woven itself into the fabric of the school’s culture, which encourages the students to try out different sports.


The selection available at Críost Rí has nurtured a number of future world champions, including middle-distance runner Marcus O’Sullivan and racewalker Rob Heffernan. Their achievements go alongside the multitude of All-Ireland winners that walked through the doors on Capwell Road and trained at Páirc Choilm.

There’s been no questioning of soccer’s status in the school and its relationship with the other extracurricular offerings. Críost Rí are just thrilled to add another sport as this fits right in with their ethos.

“There hasn’t been any conflict, it’s been a case of catering for the students we have,” he said.

“We try to link up with sports as much as we can. 

We like to encourage guys who play one sport to keep it going and play other sports as well. 

“There’s a lot of sports now in the school. You have your basketball, hurling, football, athletics, and soccer. It’s trying to give them a well-rounded approach to sport.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130


Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here


Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more